Looking forward to the future of journalism

Internal memos: Fiesta Texas struggled to control the Rattler’s ‘excessive speeds’

After 20 years, a fearsome monster called the Rattler is closing down at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It’s a good time to reflect on the park’s flagship roller coaster — and how it suffered from excessive speeds when it opened in 1992.

These internal memos and letters were uncovered in lawsuits filed against Fiesta Texas by riders who complained of head and neck injuries after riding the Rattler during the early 1990s. They show how the ride’s manufacturers were struggling to control the Rattler’s high speeds, even after opening day.

Meanwhile, the public knew little about the problems — and was falsely told the ride was tamer than it actually was.

Years later, the Express-News wrote a series of stories about amusement ride safety and published the main material in the documents. Here are three key records (click on the bottom-left corner of each record for a full-screen view):

Excessive speeds




A day after its grand opening on March 14, 1992, Fiesta Texas shut down the Rattler because of “excessive speeds.” Roller Coaster manufacturer Mike Black told Fiesta Texas this was a wise move and discussed ways to control the ride.

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KTSA’s Paul Alexander discusses thrill-ride injuries

Here’s a recording of my radio interview last week with KTSA’s Paul Alexander. We talked about a San Antonio Express-News investigation of the thrill ride industry, and how the public can check a little-known government database that tracks amusement ride injuries in Texas. The Express-News posted the injury data online for anyone interested in checking … Read more

Theme park injuries go unreported

Ten years ago (wow, I’m getting old) I wrote a series of stories about the safety record of San Antonio’s major theme parks — Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld San Antonio, and Splashtown. I learned state officials keep a little-known database that tracks amusement-ride injuries in Texas. The database isn’t perfect. The injuries are self-reported … Read more

Texas database tracks theme-park injuries

You can check the safety record of Texas theme parks and carnivals by searching a unique database of 1,800 reports detailing broken bones, chipped teeth and other injuries. Officials at the Texas Department of Insurance collect injury reports from amusement ride owners and type the information into a database. We obtained a copy of the … Read more